Marlborough cottage the place to stay for garden lovers

Dave and Sue Monahan painted their mid-1800s cottage in an old Taubmans colour ‘Grey Gum’, the same shade as their villa ...
PAUL MCCREDIE

Dave and Sue Monahan painted their mid-1800s cottage in an old Taubmans colour ‘Grey Gum’, the same shade as their villa on the same property.

When Sue Monahan showed her husband Dave an ad in their local Marlborough paper for a rundown mid-1800s cottage, he said: "No… no!"

As the owner of Upton Oaks Furniture and a builder by trade, he could see a huge amount of work ahead.

However, it didn't take him long to succumb to the cottage's charms. "Laurella has become a labour of love," says Sue. "We've put a lot of us in this cottage." Named after the couple's daughters, Laura and Ella, the cottage now sits in the Monahans' Upton Oaks Garden, which holds the coveted New Zealand Gardens Trust Garden of National Significance rating.

The Monahans’ Upton Oaks Garden holds the coveted New Zealand Gardens Trust Garden of National Significance rating.
PAUL MCCREDIE

The Monahans’ Upton Oaks Garden holds the coveted New Zealand Gardens Trust Garden of National Significance rating.

Guests can peacefully enjoy the beautiful setting after everyone else has gone home.  

What is the history behind the cottage? When I designed our garden in 2008, I always envisaged something in the empty space in the corner. The cottage was situated in an industrial area and it was likely it would be demolished when it was sold, so we approached the developer and bought it for removal. 

How did the relocation go? It came all the way from town on the back of a truck and was craned over the hedge. It creaked for the whole trip and there were a few moments when we were worried it wouldn't hold together. Sometimes relocated homes can look out of place, but we think it fits into the garden perfectly. 

Sue and Dave Monahan.
PAUL MCCREDIE

Sue and Dave Monahan.

How did you make it feel homely? We renovated it to the same standard as our own home and I had fun pulling together all the extra bits to bring the look together and make it cosy and homely – for example, the collection of old green glassware and lots of comfy cushions and throws. 

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What is your favourite thing about the cottage? Its cuteness and classic mid-1800s style. I also love being able to see into the garden from every window, it gives you a feeling of tranquillity. 

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What was your approach to decorating the cottage? I've always loved colour and florals and that has carried through to the cottage's interior design, from the green couch, which is the same shade as the box hedging, to the floral feature walls in the bedroom and bathrooms. With the garden setting of the cottage, we couldn't just style it white on white.

I'd been collecting floral fabrics and wallpaper for years, and I researched authentic bathroom fittings, which were imported from the UK. 

Upton Oaks Furniture made the kitchen, as well as the table and chairs, which were custom-sized for the cottage.
PAUL MCCREDIE

Upton Oaks Furniture made the kitchen, as well as the table and chairs, which were custom-sized for the cottage.

What should guests expect? Staying in the cottage is a chance for guests to experience a world away from everything and take the time to relax in a Garden of National Significance. Guests talk about spending the day just sitting in the garden watching the white fantail pigeons fly by.  

 

Neat hedges in the formal gardens are grown around the cottage.
PAUL MCCREDIE

Neat hedges in the formal gardens are grown around the cottage.

Sue collected the prints on the wall from antiques shops – they feature images of scenery and native New Zealand wildlife.
PAUL MCCREDIE

Sue collected the prints on the wall from antiques shops – they feature images of scenery and native New Zealand wildlife.

The floral wallpaper in the bedroom is Chatsworth’s Ravenglass Roses.
PAUL MCCREDIE

The floral wallpaper in the bedroom is Chatsworth’s Ravenglass Roses.

Sue drew up the plans for the bathroom vanity and Dave built it at his furniture manufacturing company.
PAUL MCCREDIE

Sue drew up the plans for the bathroom vanity and Dave built it at his furniture manufacturing company.

 - NZ House & Garden

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